Hooley: Why Nick Saban is better than Bear Bryant

Nick Saban rarely smiles, but this Alabama championship cracked his crusty veneer

If you're an Ohio State fan still chafed about the Buckeyes getting left out of the College Football Playoff, the way the season ended just over one week ago probably didn't make you feel much better.

Alabama's 26-23 overtime triumph against Georgia in the thrilling title game took the starch out of protests the Crimson Tide didn't belong in the Final Four.

OSU fans enjoyed that Told-Ya-So satisfaction in the first playoff in 2014, upsetting No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon to win the championship as the fourth seed, much to the chagrin of TCU and Baylor, which got left out.

This time around, OSU got locked out by 'Bama, which went on to win as the No. 4 thanks to rallying from a 13-0 halftime deficit and a 20-7 margin entering the fourth quarter.

If you still hate Alabama, you've probably also had enough of Nick Saban further establishing himself as the greatest college coach in history with his sixth national championship and fifth at Alabama in the past nine years.

That's a crazy level of success since his arrival in Tuscaloosa. So crazy that some of the particulars that apply are absolutely mind-boggling.

Consider that:

# Alabama's seniors finish with 52 wins in their four-year careers from 2014-2017 (the Playoff era). That's more wins than any four-year period in college football history, surpassing 51 wins by Alabama seniors from 2013-16 and the 50 wins by seniors from Alabama and Ohio State (2012-15), Clemson (2014-17) and Boise State (2008-11).

# Saban has won five national championships since 2009.

No other FBS school in the country has more than five league championships over that same span.

Alabama, Arkansas State, Boise State and Oklahoma are the five-time league champions over that span. None of those schools, other than Alabama, has won a national championship since then.

Ohio State won Big Ten titles in 2009, 2014 and 2017.

# Saban's six national championships tie Bear Bryant for the most in college football history, but there's no comparison which coach has traversed the toughest road to those titles.

All of Saban's wins have come in the BCS or Playoff era, meaning he's had to beat an opponent, or a field of opponents, judged to be the toughest competition in the sport.

Here is who Saban's teams had to go through to win it all:

2003 – No. 2 LSU upset No. 1 Oklahoma, 21-14, in the BCS title game in the Sugar Bowl.

2009 – No. 1 Alabama defeated No. 2 Texas in BCS title game in the Rose Bowl, 37-21.

2011 – No. 2 Alabama defeated No. 1 LSU, 21-0, in the BCS title game in the Sugar Bowl.

2012 – No. 2 Alabama defeated No. 1 Notre Dame, 42-14, in the BCS title game in the Orange Bowl.

2015 – No. 2 Alabama defeated No. 3 Michigan State, 38-0, and No. 1 Clemson, 45-40, in the College Football Playoff.

2017 – No. 4 Alabama defeated No. 1 Clemson, 24-6, and No. 3 Georgia, 26-23 in overtime, in the College Football Playoff.

So, Saban has won his six titles by beating the No. 1 team five times in either in the championship game or a College Football Playoff semifinal.

By contrast, in the era where Bryant won his national championships by beating the No. 1 team only once, and all of those titles came via a poll vote after the bowl season.

Here's who Bryant's teams defeated in their final game of the season to win their titles:

1961 -- No. 1 Alabama beat No. 9 Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.

1964 – No. 1 Alabama beat No. 5 Texas in the Orange Bowl.

1965 – No. 4 Alabama beat No. 3 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

1973 – No. 1 Alabama beat No. 3 Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl.

1978 – No. 2 Alabama beat No. 1 Penn State in the Sugar Bowl.

1979 – No. 2 Alabama beat No. 6 Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl.

Only three of those championship-securing victories look anything like a matchup you'd seen now in the Playoff era, or something from the BCS era.

PHOTO: Getty Images

Bruce Hooley

Bruce Hooley

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